Thursday, May 24, 2007

Immigration and Intelligence

Two stories jumped out of the news this morning about both of America’s wars – immigration and Iraq. The first is the combination of deliberations in the Congress about immigration law, an immigration related bust of a local employer and the city’s declaration that they will “curb illegal workers”. The second is a report about the warnings the U.S. intelligence agencies distributed widely within the government before we invaded Iraq.

I have been silent on the immigration issue largely because it is such a complex and murky issue that I wanted to see where congressional deliberations led. As usual, though, the tendency seems to be to focus on the bottom layer of the problem (i.e. the immigrant laborers) in both the creation of law and its enforcement.

This week, a major area employer was raided and nearly one-half of their employees arrested based on their illegal worker status. No charges have been filed on the employer who says that they comply with all laws and verify the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of all prospective employees. If that is true, then there is a serious problem with the data base. After all, each American gets one and only one social security number in his/her life. Can’t the number be cross checked in our data bases to determine who owns that number? If it can’t be, then the check is useless. If it can be, then the employer is manipulating the system. In either case, heads out to roll somewhere.

Springfield’s crackdown on illegal workers is really scary. They will fine employers $500 if they find that they hire illegal workers and $1,000 for a second offense. Loss of license comes after the third offense. Count up the number of businesses in town and then count up the number of busts in our history and see whether you think employers’ knees are knocking yet.

On the other hand, those workers arrested at George’s are being charged with everything the government can come up with. The U.S. Attorney, John Wood, made a powerful statement about his “…obligation to preserve the integrity of our nation’s immigration system by enforcing our immigration laws.”

What integrity? Our economy has always run by exploiting the lowest workers in the chain. We have done our best to ignore immigration laws from the beginning. Just last year there was a huge debate in California over whether or not the state should issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. We have court decisions about allowing their children into school and allowing illegal immigrant families to enroll in government sponsored health care programs. We lure people into the country to fill jobs and then we show our indignation for their having answered the call by throwing them into jail and giving their employers a slap, not even on the wrist but on the back.

Just as in Medicare and Medicaid fraud, our idea of immigration law enforcement is to make a show of enforcement by coming down hard on a few of the folks on the receiving end while we ignore the corruption, manipulation and incompetence nearer the top.

So what will we do about it? Well, let’s build a wall reminiscent of the Israel/Palestine monstrosity. Let’s expand our law enforcement capacity to catch them trying to get across the border. Let’s build some prison camps to put them in after we catch them and then let’s continue to ignore the ones who manage to get through and take the jobs we have waiting for them. Maybe we ought to pass a tax cut for employers whose production gets cut by the occasional raid, too. Now that’s the American way.

As to the prewar intelligence – it was just that an invasion of Iraq would most likely result in chaos and a new breeding ground for al-Qaida. There was no real surprise there. It’s just another little straw on the pile. My only question any more is whether or not there will ever be a straw that breaks this camel’s back.

Maybe it’s time somebody asked Congress and the American people - “Have you no shame?”

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

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